Defense wins championships and offense fills stands. To use a favorite saying of Bobby Bowden, “If the other team don’t score, we win!”
That was doable with a defensive coordinator such as Mickey Andrews or when Jimbo Fisher had Mark Stoops and Jeremy Pruitt. Then, FSU had less trouble stopping teams and the defense helped put the offense in good position to score points.
Former defensive coordinator Charles Kelly, much like the offensive line, was not as bad as fans believe; that being said, fans are hopeful that the days of third-and-Kelly are long gone.
To Kelly’s credit, he did leave behind talent on this roster that incoming defensive coordinator Harlon Barnett should be able to take to the next level. Right now, FSU’s biggest wins in recruiting have been on defense. But as with the offense, there are spots where more depth is necessary.
This position group is dangerously thin, with only five players returning. The players who return are talented but raw. The departure of Josh Sweat really left this group needing playmakers; even with him, FSU’s defensive ends struggled in 2017 to find someone who could take over a game.
This position actually has been lacking in recent seasons. FSU fans recall ends such as Peter Boulware, Andre Wadsworth, Jamal Reynolds, Reinard Wilson … I could go on reciting the Seminoles’ “who’s who” of sack masters.
I hope Mark Snyder — FSU’s new defensive ends coach, coming from Michigan State with Barnett — with his fiery persona and technically sound approach can take Joshua Kaindoh and Brian Burns to the next level. Snyder has experience creating his own All-Americans
Currently, FSU has zero pledges at defense end. Can Taggart get Malcolm Lamar, a former commitment at Oregon? Lamar was a high school teammate of wide receiver Warren Thompson at Seffner (Fla.) Armwood, who is seen as a likely FSU signee.
Lamar is a four-star prospect, but he won’t be enough by himself to stock the shelves. Taggart needs two or three ends. Andrew Chatfield is a four-star prospect from Plantation (Fla.) American Heritage, and John Mincey is a three-star from Homerville (Ga.) Clinch County; they would be good additions.
This is a position that Taggart can reach into the JUCO ranks for immediate help. Defensive end is not a place where the Seminoles can afford to lack depth.
When you promise a fast-paced offense, it can leave your defense on the field for a long time. When you promise an aggressive defense, you need to have quality ends to rotate. Taggart has made both of those promises.
This is by far the deepest unit on the team and that’s no surprise with it being overseen by one of the best defensive line coaches in the nation in Odell Haggins. Nobody is more Florida State than Odell.
Haggins’ track record of creating NFL prospects can be seen every Sunday, and will be present in the Super Bowl thanks to the Eagles’ Timmy Jernigan.
The returns of Demarcus Christmas and Marvin Wilson headline this group; there also are two highly touted members of the 2017 class, Ja’len Parks and Corey Durden.
Haggins was able to convince Atlanta-area prospect Robert Cooper, a 350-pounder who is one of the nation’s best at the position, to sign early, and FSU has a few others with scheduled visits.
I feel comfortable with the tackles on the roster; what this position group needs now is to stand out on the field.
As with defensive end, FSU hasn’t had a truly great linebacker in a while. Nigel Bradham is probably the last big name. FSU has had plenty of talented and good linebackers recently, but no one like Derrick Brooks, Marvin Jones or Paul McGowan from the past or Ernie Sims, Brian Allen and Kendyll Pope in recent history.
I see more similarities with our current linebackers to the standouts of the early 2000s as opposed to the legends of the 1980s and ’90s. When I look at FSU’s linebackers, I see guys with talent, eager to make a name for themselves and definitely draftable.
The past two classes have featured high-ranking linebackers, so expectations are high. Time will tell if linebacker coach Raymond Woodie can turn these guys into “bad-assess and War Daddies.”
Woodie is one of the best recruiters in the nation, but there’s simply not much quality left at this position in the 2018 class. FSU being able to keep Amari Gainer was critical.
Woodie’s reputation will be tested and well-earned if he can flip Xavier Peters, a current Kentucky commit from West Chester (Ohio) Lakota, by encouraging him to become one of the next FSU greats. Peters’ film is violent; you want that out of your linebackers.
“DBU” is a designation thrown around by many schools, but FSU is one of the few with a legitimate claim to the title because it routinely signs and develops some of the best DB prospects. This season, fans thought the secondary was going to be a “No Fly Zone,” but at key points in multiple games, there were major breakdowns in coverage.
Some of those breakdowns could be attributed to moving Derwin James around, but no one took more heat than Tavarus McFadden. He is an ultra-talented player, but many questioned whether he mailed it in in 2017 to protect his health for the 2018 NFL draft.
The bright spot in all of this was the opportunity to see young talent continue to develop. Any other school would have major depth concerns after losing five defensive backs, like the Seminoles, but FSU has churned out top classes for years and is loaded with former prep All-American talent.
This year is no different.
FSU already has signed four four-star defensive backs in this class, and three are national top-75 prospects. They’ll need to step forward immediately. FSU remains in the with two five-star cornerbacks: Patrick Surtain Jr. and Tyson Campbell, both of Plantation American Heritage. The rich would get richer if either one of these college-ready corners signed with FSU.
The experts I’ve talked to say that both are more than likely going elsewhere.
Isaiah Bolden, A.J. Lytton and Asante Samuel would be prized corners individually; as a group, they are dynamic.
At safety, Jaiden Woodbey will try to help fill a void left by James’ early departure to the NFL.
Defense should be the strong suit for FSU. Jimbo Fisher and Charles Kelly didn’t leave an empty cupboard, but it isn’t fully stocked, either. The lack of ends is disturbing and the Seminoles can’t afford any strikeouts there in the 2018 class.
Article First Appeared on Gridiron Now: http://gridironnow.com/florida-state-seminoles-defensive-recruiting-needs-class-2018/